There's a crucial missing link in the Hoosier state's early childhood education efforts.

We all should support Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick's efforts to provide that link by pushing for mandatory kindergarten in our state.

McCormick has been making her case recently for requiring Indiana children to attend what is now optional kindergarten classes.

It's time to further shed the state's horse-and-buggy attitude toward education and mandate kindergarten for all Indiana schoolchildren of that age.

McCormick recently noted that the Indiana General Assembly extended the state's pre-K funding to the state's neediest families during the 2017 legislative session.

We supported this move to help put children on solid educational footing heading into kindergarten and grade school.

Extended pre-K funding is an important investment in our future.

But, as McCormick recently noted, some of those pre-K students take a "sabbatical" before first grade because kindergarten is optional in our state.

Her department estimates that 7,000 children of kindergarten age aren't enrolled this year.

Legislation that would make kindergarten mandatory in recent years hasn't advanced in the GOP-dominated General Assembly, and that's unacceptable.

Legislative leaders should listen to McCormick, herself a Republican, and her bipartisan overture for mandatory kindergarten.

Indiana is one of a minority of states that make this crucial link between preschool and elementary school optional.

In fact, the Hoosier state is among 16 that don't require school attendance until age 7.

We can't be all-in on our children's future until we bridge this important gap.

Most of us are familiar with the concept of schoolchildren being held back in grade levels when they've failed to attain the requisite benchmarks.

The outmoded notion of optional kindergarten is holding back the entire state from the educational progress demanded by this modern age.

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Members of The Times Editorial Board are Publisher Christopher T. White, Editorial Page Editor Marc Chase, Editor Bob Heisse, Politics/History Editor Doug Ross and Managing Editor Erin Orr.